Run . . . as fast as possible . . . to a theater to see ‘John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum’. Seriously, even without seeing the previous two installments of this absolutely miraculous action franchise (although one absolutely should), the feats of balletic action choreography need to be experienced in a dark theater with as many people as possible. This is next level shit. Seriously.
The first ‘John Wick’ film came and went with little fanfare, but it was widely regarded as a neat exercise in revenge fantasy extravagance. Keanu Reeves was steered by his longtime stuntmen and coordinators, Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, now his directors, into yet another career resurgence. Leitch went on to direct ‘Atomic Blonde’, ‘Deadpool 2’, and the forthcoming ‘Hobbes & Shaw’ Fast & Furious movie, but Stahelski, writer Derek Kolstad, and of course Reeves continued the story of the ‘retired’ hitman/bogeyman in Chapters 2 and now 3, subtitled ‘Parabellum’. “Prepare for War” indeed.
Chapter 2, itself a near perfect example of operatic violence, left the audience on the ultimate cliffhanger – John literally has one hour to get his affairs in order before he is excommunicated from the underground league of assassins. Chapter 3 starts off immediately following as a wounded Reeves and his dog plan their next move. It begins in the NYC Public Library and flows through the bowels of the city, from a ballet company run by a gypsy boss played by Anjelica Huston (absolutely chewing scenery like all the extended cameos in this universe), all the way to Casablanca and back again through Grand Central Station. Each new scene becomes an elaborate set piece of martial arts and gun fu, each exhaustingly amazing in their intricate choreography and gasp inducing stunt work and hard core effects.
It’s hard to describe the experience of ‘John Wick: Chapter 3’, at once truly absurd, exhausting, and exhilarating. Quite frankly, no other action franchise conveys the care and brilliance of its set up. Whether it’s the intricate mythology of Winston’s (an always pontificating Ian McShane) the Continental, a sort of decadent safe zone in this underworld of assassins, the street level scuzz of the Bowery King (a gloriously over the top Laurence Fishburne), Sofia (an absolute badass Halle Berry) and her attack shepherds, or Asia Kate Dillon and their antics as The Adjudicator of the High Table, this is a world that could only exist in the movies. ‘John Wick’ is quite simply THE reason to go to the movies, and it’s cast and crew know it – the level of detail and care that go into every fight and chase scene is incomparable to films of its ilk, and it shows, in every pulse-pounding, fist-pumping, squeal-inducing minute . . .
Directed By: Chad Stahelski
Written By: Derek Kolstad, Shay Hatten, Chris Collins, & Marc Abrams
Running Time: 131 min.
* * * * (out of four stars) -or- A